BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian authorities will evaluate and give an opinion on the extradition request made by Macedonia for its fugitive former prime minister who has been given asylum in Hungary, the Hungarian prime minister said Friday.
Viktor Orban said on state radio that Nikola Gruevski, who fled Macedonia last week to avoid serving a two-year prison term for corruption, is an ally of Hungary who deserves fair treatment.
Orban, who had anti-migrant border fences built in 2015, said that without similar policies from Gruevski, who was prime minister between 2006 and 2016, "it would have been much more difficult, if at all possible, to protect the Hungarian border."
"He was the first Balkan politician who built a fence," Orban said. "That is why we always thought of Macedonia and of his person as an ally. One treats one's allies fairly."
After making his way out of Macedonia in still unclear circumstances, Gruevski made an asylum request at a Hungarian diplomatic mission in Albania last week. Later, he traveled through several Balkan countries in Hungarian diplomatic vehicles, escorted by Hungarian diplomats.
Orban described Gruevski's journey through Balkans as an exciting "thriller" and insisted that the matter was a legal one, not a political one and that his government was not involved in the asylum decision.
Orban said it was "important" that the Hungarian government refrain also from commenting on Gruevski's conviction and the several other judicial cases pending against him in his homeland.
"There are complicated political battles and games going on in Macedonia and the justice system is part of it," Orban said. "I myself don't know what is true and what is not true because it is practically impossible to decide."
Like with much of the criticism coming his way on any issue, Orban sourced it in this case also to Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, whom he considers an ideological foe and blames — despite repeated denials from Soros — for the migrant surge in Europe of recent years.
Orban said the strongest criticisms of the Hungarian government in the Gruevski case were coming "all from Soros organizations."
"Those in favor of immigration and those attacking the issue of the Macedonian prime minister are exactly the same people, both at the personal and organizational level," Orban said.